Saturday, July 17, 2010

Workshopping

I only went four or five times out of the thirteen allotted two-hour sessions, and I'd have gone a lot less if I hadn't paid 600 euro for the privilege.

These writers' classes, these shams. 'Get It Written' - a class for those who wish to see a novel through from inception to publication. I knew I was in trouble from the get-go, I figured it was not for me with each new-age whelp from teacher.

Teacher told us to access our inner critic as I accessed my inner vomit. Teacher told us to eschew all sorts of lovely things like television and friends and life for our "verbal music." Teacher told us we'd have to quit our day jobs and live penniless on the couches of the friends we were not allowed talk to, "for the sake of the words on the page."

We were told to do the morning streams every single day, free writing on four foolscap pages (front and back) before we could even start to dream about coffee or erections. We were to find an hour a day to start with, and increase it, all the time taking in the world around us and all the while shutting it out.

She spoke the way that artists don't and she said these words to a room of middle aged women and one man, wrongly placed among lunching ladies whose inner novels were all of sexual repression and tea with the clergy.

I gave it a go and wrote a chapter or two of something (long since consigned to my twenties), reading out an excerpt in class with all the gusto of a flat tyre. I shoehorned in expletives on the spot, made up words like 'cludgefingers' and 'arsepiss,' purely for my own amusement before Miriam from Clontarf gave us a polished version of her own tome, which could have been called 'My Day Out With Doris.'

There was no applause, and even those closer to my own age fiddled with their shoelaces and had the look of anywhere but here about them. We had just the throat clearing, the crickets and lovely, stargazing teacher saying, "OK, that was, ehm, who's next to read?"

I remember leaving the building on North Great George's Street and walking towards Parnell Street with Bridie, who had a question for me.

"What's your book actually about? I tried to understand it but I'm afraid it was a little bit over my head. You use very, eh, salty language."

"It's a thinkpiece, Bridie, in which the protagonist is viewing the world from the position of the world's most arrogant asexual, while maintaining the sensibilities of everybody else in the room but himself. It speaks to everything and nothing all at once, while the 'umbrella' motif is in there for a reason."

"Oh, well. Yes. I think I get you. See you next week?"

"You won't, Bridie."

6 comments:

Andrew said...

Sounds quite reminiscent of both my and Rosie's experiences with such things. I get the feeling these classes really only exist to feed middle-aged people's romantic notions about themselves.

K8 the Gr8 said...

Ha! The whole point of writing is supposed to be re-hashing experience from life lived. How do you live life from a couch?!

Radge said...

Andrew - Couldn't agree more. I remember reading posts from your corner of the world about it. I took absolutely nothing from either of the courses I did, apart from the conviction to be more careful about how I spend my money in future.

K8 - That was just one of the questions going through my mind during the first class. I'm surprised I went back a few more times.

Heidi said...

How can people write about life if they've never lived it?!

And why must writers be starving, friendless alcoholics who churn out tortured words, commit suicide, and then become famous post-mortem?

Kath Lockett said...

Remember the biggest lie of all - writers DON'T want to share. Ever. All these 'get your work published' or 'Writing the Booker Prize winning novel' is bullshit because if the class/workshop/conference/literary festival morning session wankers were so successful at it, why do they have to run paid sessions for fuckwits they'll be competing against?

Stick to your erections and coffee and do it yourself, Radge.

Radge said...

A point well made, Heidi.

Kath - I sense much frustration on the topic, and good to see 'wankers' is a worldwide term.